10 Best Value Restaurants in Tucson: Good Deals on Great Eats



Eating well doesn't have to cost a bundle. Case in point: Tucson's vibrant dining scene, which offers a wide variety of good value restaurants and cafes. 

If you're looking for greasy spoon breakfast fare, Tucson has several good options. BoBo's on busy Grant Avenue has a huge breakfast menu that's as delicious as it is affordable.

If you can make it to Frank's & Francisco's before 9 am on a weekday morning, you'll be rewarded with two eggs prepared in any style, served with home fries or hash browns and your choice of biscuit, toast or tortilla - all for less than two dollars. 

For those days when you're craving Vietnamese cuisine, check out Miss Saigon, a longtime Vietnamese restaurant that has long been popular with University of Arizona students. 

El Guero Canelo's has become a Tucson institution, recognized nationally as one of the city's top purveyors of the famous Sonoran hot dog. It's easy to come here with $10 in your pocket and leave feeling full, thanks to a budget menu of hot dogs, burritos, tacos and more. Plus, the salsa cart offers lots of free toppings, including grilled onion. 



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Mac and Cheese lovers, be warned: stepping inside the dining room of Tucson's The Fix can be an overwhelming experience. This is a small eatery with a big menu, with dozens of takes on the classic Mac and Cheese bowl. Whether you're craving yours with southwestern zest or straight-up cheddar, The Fix has, well, your fix. The restaurant's specialty is creamy, freshly made mac and cheese, but there's also a menu of other comfort food classics, including sandwiches, burgers, and something called "pretzel tots" (they are as tasty as they sound. For dessert, sink your teeth into a freshly baked cinnamon roll or slice of decadent cheesecake. This is comfort food heaven.


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Inspired by the colorful streets of Tepatitlan, Jalisco in Mexico, Calle Tepa is Tucson's latest and greatest Mexican cafe. In a city full of great Mexican food, Calle Tepa manages to stand out from the pack for its great take on Jalisco street food, fresh ingredients, and attention to detail. Here is everything you would want from a fast-casual Mexican food cafe: homemade recipes, made-from-scratch salsas, and pillowy tortillas cooked in front of you. There is even an al pastor juicing on a rotating spit. Brought to you by the folks behind Tucson's Guadalajara Grill, Calle Tepa offers a homespun take on great Mexican food.


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Pionic Pizza is a relative newcomer to the Tucson restaurant scene, but this modern pizzeria is already becoming a local favorite. The fast casual pizza spot delivers artisan-style pizza baked to crispy perfection in as fast as 90 seconds. You won't find any microwaves or freezers in the kitchen - all ingredients are fresh and ready to top your pizza, salad or pasta plate. Unlimited toppings are only $7.45. Choose your own toppings, or select a specialty pie like "The Triad," made with pepperoni, sausage and bacon. Apart from pizza, guests can also build their own pasta or salad bowl.


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Tucson Tamale Company's slogan is "unwrap happiness." Well said. With more than 30 different types of tamales, from meaty and spicy to hearty vegan treats, Tucson Tamale Company is your source for authentic and creative tamales in the Old Pueblo. The menu is eclectic and fun. Try the green corn tamales, a house favorite, or the Arizona, which is stuffed with chipotle beef. The Tucson Tamale Company has something to please every palate, including a large selection of vegetarian and vegan tamales. There are also delicious breakfast and dessert tamales so you can start your morning--and finish your meal--just right.


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Roma Imports celebrates the spirit of the traditional Italian deli by staying true to its roots. The small shop carries a huge selection of Italian food goods, including high quality imported meats and cheeses. The menu features a large assortment of hot and cold deli sandwiches, including a classic caprese made with fresh basil and the "Ultimate Roma," made with capocolla, genoa salami, fresh mortadella, provolone, and roasted red peppers. On the hot side of the menu, you can't beat the "Roma Signature," a slow roasted pork shoulder marinated with mustard and beer, then topped with a crunchy slaw. The deli also carries an assortment of salads and hot pasta dishes.


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Bobo's Restaurant in Tucson offers home style and country breakfasts in a friendly neighborhood dining environment. This local greasy spoon is a favorite with breakfast-lovers looking for hot, tasty breakfast platters. You'll find the usual suspects of pancakes, omelets and sides, as well as an assortment of house specialties. Sweet tooths will want to try the banana pancakes, french toast or chocolate chip pancakes, enormous, fluffy and sweet. For an out-of-this-world breakfast plate, try the Flying Saucer pancake. Of course, no matter what you order, you'll want to try Bobo's famous fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits. A great place to rub elbows with locals.


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Corned beef hash and eggs is the favorite at Robert's, with good reason. It's the real thing! Of course there are other options, including just about every conceivable combination of eggs and breakfast meats is on the menu, along with plenty of freshly-baked bread and pastry. Lunch is hearty comfort food: meatloaf, chicken fried steak or pork chops, all with mashed potatoes, a roll and vegetable of the day. There are a few sandwiches too, of the egg salad-grilled ham and cheese variety, and homemade pies and cakes for dessert. Make sure to try the homemade cinnamon rolls too, a restaurant staple.


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The Contreras family of Tucson opened a small hot dog stand back in 1993 that dished out hot and tasty carne asada and the now-famous Sonora dog. Today, that small hot dog stand has evolved in a mini-empire, with three Tucson locations of El Guero Canelo giving locals and visitors an authentic taste of Tucson and Sonora food culture. The Sonora Hot Dog has been featured on Food Network and numerous publications, a hot dog wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon and topped with copious amounts of grilled onions, beans, mayonnaise and--if you dare--jalapenos. If that sounds a bit much for you, try the restaurant's winning selection of burritos, quesadillas and tacos.


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This small, University-area Vietnamese cafe has been a local neighborhood favorite for years. The sprawling menu focuses on fresh Vietnamese fare, with lots of vegetarian options available. Appetizers include fresh spring rolls stuffed with herbs and shrimp, grilled chicken skewers and calamari tempura. There is, of course, pho, the classic beef noodle broth available in six different versions. The bun menu should please lovers of Vietnamese-style vermicelli dishes. There is also a small menu of Chinese and Thai specialties, for those in the mood for orange chicken and fried rice. Almost everything on the menu is available for take-out.


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Frank's & Francisco's


 

You won't find elegant dining rooms at Frank's, but that alone is part of this mid-century diner's charm. A long-time Tucson staple and one of the oldest diners in town, Frank's Restaurant is famous for its fast, friendly take on breakfast and lunch. The French toast, eggs, bacon and coffee are consistently good. Even better, Frank's is proof that the early bird really does get the worm: if you arrive before 9 am on a weekday morning, you can order The Early Bird Special, two eggs prepared in any style, served with home fries or hash browns and your choice of biscuit, toast or tortilla--all for less than two dollars. Not a bad way to get the day started.


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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.

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